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Who's the real rogue state?
Why Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri has been posthumously hailed as a hero of peace.
Eamonn McCann, 12 Jan 2006
see that this year’s Tipperary International Peace Award has posthumuously gone to former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Condoleezza Rice will be pleased. Whether Maher Arar takes the same view, I wouldn’t know.
In previous years, the Tipp Peace Prize has variously gone to the good, the bad and the plug-ugly. John O’Shea of Goal took it one year. Also, the Tory businessman Sir Bob Geldof. And Bill Clinton, who once launched a no-warning bomb attack on a famine-stricken country to distract attention from a semen stain on a woman’s dress. Still, they gave it to Nelson Mandela one year, too.
What to make of Hariri, though? Hardly a name to conjure with in Tipperary, I’d have thought. Would he have made the grade if he hadn’t been assassinated?
Hariri was blown up in a car-bombing in Beirut in February last. Around 20 associates and passers-by also perished in the blast. During her recent trip to Europe, Secretary of State Rice spoke out against the killing. “Syria really has to be dealt with.” The murder could not be “left lying on the table.”
Rice wasn’t alone in fingering the Syrians. Hariri had been an ally of Syria when prime minister, but had more lately taken against the Syrian presence in his country. Most observers reckoned the Damascus regime of Bashir al-Assad had offed him as a warning to others. UN investigator Detlev Mehlis agreed, although he failed to come up with clear evidence. Or any evidence. Not that Rice would have required anything as mundane as evidence.
The Bush administration had long regarded Syria as a “rogue state” and accused it of facilitating the infiltration of Islamist terrorists into Iraq. US ambassador to the UN John Bolton had talked publicly about “taking out” Assad.
Syria has also been indicted by Amnesty International and other human rights NGOs - as well as by Rice’s State Department - for torturing political prisoners. Which is where Maher Arar comes in.
Arar is a 34-year-old Syrian-born Canadian engineer, who was arrested at JFK airport in New York in September 2002 when changing ‘planes with his family en route home from a holiday in Tunisia. He was held at the airport for 13 days and questioned about a suspected member of an Islamic group regarded by the US as terrorist. Arar says that he scarcely knew the man, but had worked for a time with his brother.